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The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  620 ratings  ·  106 reviews
The dramatic secret history of our undeclared thirty-year conflict with Iran, revealing newsbreaking episodes of covert and deadly operations that brought the two nations to the brink of open war

For three decades, the United States and Iran have engaged in a secret war. It is a conflict that has never been acknowledged and a story that has never been told.

This surreptitiou
Hardcover, 656 pages
Published July 19th 2012 by Penguin Press
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  620 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Mal Warwick
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
What We Didn't Know About the U.S. Relationship With Iran

If you were among those who sighed with relief when Barack Obama was reelected because you’d been concerned that a Republican administration would invade Iran, David Crist has news for you. In fact, The Twilight War is full of surprises, even for one who stays relatively well informed about world affairs. The underlying message — the meta-message, if you’ll permit that conceit — is that what we normally consume on a daily basis as “news” i
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The author, a senior historian for the government, tackles a difficult, convoluted, complex and politically charged topic – the US/Iranian “relationship” over the last thirty plus years – a conflict which seemingly has been on the brink of disaster, i.e. war, for most of that time. Covering five presidencies, multiple “close calls” and missed opportunities, the clash of cultures and religion, and political infighting on both sides - all of this brewing within the cauldron of the Middle East - Th ...more
If there is anything like a primarily ideological adversary to modern US foreign policy, it is violent religious fundamentalism. This is most typified in their stormy relationship with Iran. They once were a bulwark ally in the region (after we propped the Shah up with a coup) but now we are each other's boogeymen. Here, Crist makes an incisive history of our complex and stormy confrontations.

Carter, we know, had a disastrous time. But Reagan made his share of mistakes, too. Most notably Iran-Co
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I commend Dr Crist for the incredible level of detail he offers in this made for great reading! Additionally, I very much appreciate his position (highlighted constantly throughout the book) that this "twilight war" is the fault of BOTH sides and will only be fixed if both sides set aside years of acrimony and distrust. However, I do feel that Dr Crist rushed the portion covering the Obama presidency. I would've enjoyed reading more about the attempted assassination of the Saudi ambass ...more
Iran and the United States have spent the last 30 years jockeying for dominance in the Middle East and influence with the other Arab countries. They have fought shadow battles and have come close to open conflict on multiple occasions. This is the documentation of the close calls and low-grade conflict.

Why I started this book: On the Army, Navy and Special Operations reading list, this was a book that I wanted to cross off all three lists.

Why I finished it: This book is dense with facts, persona
Steven Z.
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have followed US-Iranian relations for over forty years and David Crist's work is the best that I have come across. It is a maticuously researched book that explores most diplomatic and military aspects of the American-Iranian relationship since the decline of the Shah and his overthrow in 1979. Crist explores the role of all the major players during the period and he raises important questions as to whether the deterioration of Washington's relationship with Teheran could have been avoided ar ...more
Joseph Stieb
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A detailed and readable account of US-Iranian relations since the 1970s with a particular focus on military conflict and spy. The bulk of the book is about the Iran-Iraq War, and there are some fascinating sections about the US-Iranian conflict over the Persian Gulf. Crist also examines the numerous times when one side reached out to the other or signaled a willingness to talk and was rejected. He definitely shows that there is a basis for US-Iranian conciliation, but also that this has been a l ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
The United States and Iran have been bitter enemies since the Iranian takeover of the American embassy in 1979. Few Americas are aware of how bitter the enmity has been. David Crist’s important new book, subtitled "The Secret History of America’s Thirty –Year Conflict with Iran," outlines the origins and background of the conflict and details the numerous military confrontations that have brought us to the brink of outright war several times. Crist is a Marine colonel whose father was a four-sta ...more
Thurston Hunger
Nov 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Perhaps those currently hankering for a war with Iran, will be glad to know that one has been going on for quite some time. I'm fascinated by Iran for a number of reasons (its non-Arabic position in the middle east, the dual levels of existence as shown in Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels, source of amazing cinema and so on).

But mostly I fear these days that Iran is being bandied about as the USA's next foe to be most feared. Sort of the way the USSR was long ago. Ultimately I feel that most ear
David Olmsted
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book could have been titled “Trapped by History with No Way Out” because it shows each side has compelling reasons for its actions. The author presents a balanced account from the Iranian revolution of 1979 to 2012 so it covers a lot of ground. It provides much behind the scenes information including the spy wars, the naval war in the gulf, and intra-governmental conflicts. It shows how both sides had their share of “rogue commanders” and it shows how various peace initiatives from both sid ...more
A very detailed account of the United States and Iran proxy war that has been going on for over 30 years. I remember talking to some of the trainers in Iraq grumping about all the Iranians stirring up problems with their training programs. The story begins with the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic Republic. CIA operatives attempted to get the hostages out while a rescue mission failed disastrously in the desert. Next was Lebanon and our backing of the Christian militias against the S ...more
C. Patrick
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This history is a very good and detailed summary of key clashes and other interactions between Iran and the US since the 1979 revolution. According to the author, the work began as a dissertation of the relations between the two countries during the Reagan presidency. There are some excellent retellings of events, the USS SAMUEL B ROBERTS crew's heroic struggle to save their ship, and some of the special ops actions during the same tanker war. The trouble I have with the book are the almost cart ...more
Kevin Kizer
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book written by the son of one of the major players, who himself has decades of experience in the region. What struck me as one of the defining moments (and there are many) in the relationship between Iran and the US was when, after Iran had deceived the US on trading weapons for hostages (see Iran/Contra), the US reneged on a different deal after the Iranians had delivered on their end. Sure, the US could say it was justified because of the previous deceptions, but it showed th ...more
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a great book and a must read. Since it discusses both Iran and USA and their relationship I wrote a brief review in Persian for the potential Iranian reader as well:

زمان پیروزی انقلاب اسلامی ایران در سال 1357 روابط ایران و آمریکا وارد فاز جدیدی شد که پیش بینی آینده روابط دو کشور راغیرممکن می کند. مجموعه ای از شایعات، باورها، فشارها، منافع سیاسی گروههای مختلف و کلیشه ها مانع از تحلیل منطقی عوامل موثر بر این ارتباطات و انگیزه های دو کشور در تماسهای دو جانبه می شود. این روزها که دور جدیدی
Peter Mcloughlin
The first half of this book is really strong. The narrative thread of the Iranian Revolution, The Hostage crisis , The Iran/Iraq war , Iran's involvement in terror in Lebanon, early skirmishes in the Persian Gulf and finally Iran-Contra. After that I found the story a little hard to follow. Their were a lot of tit for tat hits back and forth between U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf and the Iranians in the late 80s and 90s which could have escalated. Their is the gulf war and foreign sponsored He ...more
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding history of a very, VERY complicated relationship between Iran and the U.S. David Crist, son of General George Crist (Ret.), has written an amazing accounting of both military and diplomatic events that have taken place between these two countries over the last 30 years. So much misunderstanding, wrong-headed decisions, and miscommunications between both countries over many years are brought to light in this book.

This book is required reading to all who have an interest in the Mid
Matthew Trevithick
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars - 4 for the reading / writing, and another half star for the sheer amount information this book contains and the overall novelty of the topic. Appreciate the ending notes about how the book came together and which sources were used. Given the difficulty in obtaining information from Middle East archives, the author's determination in working to meet with as many Iranian / Middle Eastern officials who were involved in some of the events described in the book as possible is praiseworthy. ...more
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
An excellent scholarly and even-handed account of US-Iran relations since the 1970s, with most emphasis on Reagan years. Critical of both sides, and especially poor decisions by the Americans, it also covers military actions undertaken by both sides (and covert ones as well) as Iran struggled with Iraq and to gain hegemony in the region, with the US protecting its intewests and that of its local allies. Some of his research came as a surprise to me and I learned quite a bit. This would be requir ...more
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Timing is everything - since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 every time one side has leaned forward to create a new relationship the other has not responded. The extensive volume portrays the "almost war" that has existed between these tow nations but also share the complexity of each nation's polity. I also appreciated how Crist shared how little we know about political struggles within the Islamic Republic.
A must-read for foreign affairs fans, it dhows how complex the world really is - and how
Shelby Melban
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, military, politics
An awesome modern history of the troubled relationship between Iran and the United States. As a US citizen the lack of common knowledge on these many events troubles me. The animosity of these two nations could have been put to bed long ago if not for arrogance. A great read for anyone with an interest.
Frank Kelly
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, foreign-policy, iran
Outstanding in-depth history of US-Iranian relations since the fall do the Shah. Best I've read yet. We forget how many violent interactions there have been between our two states, especially in the 1980's and 1990's. This is one of those rare "must reads" to understand the animus and conflict that exists between us. And just how committed and dangerous the Iranian regime truly is.
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Awesome and detailed history of 30 plus years of a low level conflict between the U.S. and Iran...interesting to read about how we essentially have been talking past eachother for 30 years, and how internal politics in both Iran and the U.S. prevent constructive relations between the two nations
J Scott Shipman
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I recently received a review copy, and about halfway through: well done---a little too political in places, but overall an excellent history of our relationship with Iran since 1979.
Mike Maurer
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent overview of 30 years of under the surface animosity and aggression between Iran and the United States. The author isn't a stuffy academic, but someone who has both been in the middle east as a US Marine officer and has a PhD in the history of the region. My take is the book is an outgrowth of his thesis about the issues between the two countries.

It is also helps that the author's father was the Marine Corp General who was tasked with the first tour at CENTCOM. Here the book
Joel Blankenship
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book on the US-Iranian relations since 1979. The book begins with the fallout of Iranian Revolution in 1979 where American policymakers are caught totally unprepared for the Pahlavi regime's quick collapse. David Crist goes on to explain how much of American policy during the 1980s is then driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of the Soviet intentions in the Middle East leading to an expansion of American policy in the region primarily by CENTCOM & the IC. Where the book real ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the presidential campaign of 2008, John McCain made plain what kind of aggressive foreign policy he would pursue by half-singing a chipper little ditty called “Bomb Iran”, to the tune of the Beach Boys classic, “Barbara Ann”. His malice was not even creative, for the song originated as a parody in early 1980. That parody, though, was close to being reality, for throughout the 1980s. American ships engaged in a quasi-war against Iran, ostensibly to protect the free flow of oil amid the Iraqi i ...more
نبيه العاكوم
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
كتاب كاف لأي قارئ يريد أن يطّلع على طبيعة العلاقة بين إيران الخمينية والولايات المتحدة. عمل جبّار للمؤرخ ديفيد كريست، ومعلوماته تفصيلية عن الأحداث، لاسيما خلال حرب الخليج الأولى. يبقى أن الكاتب قد أهمل بعض الأحداث، كحرب تموز ٢٠٠٦ في لبنان، وهي دون شك إحدى فصول الحروب بالوكالة بين إيران والولايات المتحدة.
أنصح بقراءته، وبشكل تفصيلي، ويعدّ الكتاب تأريخ لهذه الحقبة، خاصة بجمعه لمعلومات إستخبارية مهمة من سياسيين وجنرالات وسفراء.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
History of US/Iran relations from the Shah's latter years through the tail end of Obama's first term. Exhaustively researched, I'm amazed at the level of detail provided. Both sides have missed so many opportunities to sit down and talk vs. shoot at each other. Great insight into Iran's thinking, and an amazing look into the decision making process in the US (actual meetings/discussions with the politics of that moment as a backdrop).
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary-nf
A long book but worth it. I have lived through the 30+ years described in this story of the "secret and not so secret wars" with Iran since the revolution.

I remembered ( vaguely) some of the incidents but was really unaware of the deeper implications and nuances of our relationship with the Islamic republic, the Middle East and our European allies
Dave Beeman
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched. Looks at the 30 plus year conflict between the United States and Iran. Provides well balanced review of events from both the U.S. and Iranian sides. Makes for interesting and thoughtful reading.

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